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ADI brings HDMI in digital homes

Posted: 17 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:digital home? HDMI connectivity? consumer electronics?

A decade ago, digital ICs like demodulation, A/V decompression ICs were the make-or-break components for consumer electronics companies seeking to launch the transition to the digital home.

Today, analog and mixed signal chips present in video encoders and HDMI connectivity ICs are the components that determine many digital consumer systems' time to market.

This theory is what Analog Devices Inc. is banking on, and it seems to be succeeding, if the company's recent design wins with Yamaha Corp. and Hitachi Ltd are any indication.

ADI said Yamaha has installed into its new A/V receivers Blackfin processor, and three Advantiv advanced television ICs developed to enable video and HDMI connectivity.

ADI also recently announced that Hitachi's HD wireless video hub launched in Japan, by using Tzero's UWB connectivity silicon, has deployed ADI's wireless HDMI reference design. The reference design has allowed multiple entertainment HD sources to be connected wirelessly to an ultraslim Hitachi HDTV unit called Wooo UT HDTV.

Enabling Yamaha
Doug Bartow, strategic marketing manager, advanced television segment, ADI said, "Yamaha came to ADI when they decided to develop A/V receivers with unbelievable functionality at a very low cost."

ADI claimed to meet Yamaha's cost goals, offer HDMI and high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) compliances and enable low latencies for channel changes and input selections.

Bartow called the collaboration with Yamaha "a ground-breaking undertaking" that has involved ADI engineering teams at five different sites. That probably isn't an overstatement.

Mark Kirstein, president and cofounder, MultiMedia Intelligence, observed that such an A/V home theater box as that of Yamaha's is in effect a "networked device." The number of design challenges embodied in such a device include: "achieving the multiple levels of interoperability, and increasing intelligence in the box at a cost-competitive price."

ADI helped Yamaha reduce system cost by offering a single Blackfin DSP, replacing three microprocessors that used to drive a home theater box.

Meanwhile, ADI integrated software drivers for three Advantiv ICs into the Blackfin system software package. "ADI developed audio decode and HDMI repeater software drivers, while Yamaha developed a user interface," said Bartow. Such ADI-developed softwares are Dolby Digital decoder, DTS decoding and the standards-compliant HDMI repeater functionality with HDCP.

Analog processing
Unlike Broadcom Inc. or STMicroelectronics, ADI has never had much presence in the digital IC market for digital TVs or cable/satellite set-tops.

Bartow, calling the digital IC market consisting of demodulator, MPEG video, and image scaling ICs "already very crowded and very much commoditized," said that ADI is focused on "analog processing and all the output" that must be integrated in digital box design.

Indeed, none of those analog processing and connectivity capabilities is trivial to design. "Take an example of HDCP repeater functions," added Bartow. AV receivers, with multiple HDMI inputs, need to do handshakes and authentications with various connected devices "in a blink of an eye." "The A/V receiver, first, does a handshake with a Blu-ray player, for example. The same A/V receiver, meanwhile, needs to check keys associated with an HDTV. Once those keys are fine, then, the A/V receiver must authenticate with HDTV and Blu-ray all over again," noted Bartow.

ADI built some hooks onto its HDMI ICs so the "authentication process is kept as simple as possible," he said. ADI developed "stand-by and ready-to-go mode" in its ADV7441, an integrated video decoder and HDMI receiver, resulting in very little delay when signals go through an analog source device to HDMI-featured equipment or from an HDMI system to another HDMI device.

Meanwhile, Kirstein noted that differentiation for ADI's silicon solution is "based on bringing all the analog and digital functionality together in a cost-effective and time-competitive fashion."

"These digital home theater receivers are taking on increased intelligence to manage what is in effect a digital network," he added. "This brings the level of complexity and design challenges to a new level, as function-specific devices (A/V receivers) need to consider content protection, authentication, protocols, and most importantly, interoperability," he stressed.

"Although the individual standards-based chips migrate to commoditization, ADI brings a higher-level of system-level integration to bear for the Yamaha design in," he said. Kirstein described that ADI differentiation is at the system level, while "Yamaha's differentiation is features, functions, time to market and affordability (cost)."

Wireless HD video transmission
ADI also won a design-win with Hitachi's wireless HD video transmission hub, with its wireless reference design. The platform is to make HD video transmission easy regardless of connectivity methodvia wireless (USB or 802.11n, etc), power line or coax.

Integrated in the reference design include: JPEG2000-based "Wavescale" video compression codec; HDMI transmitters and receivers; video decode functions; power management; fan management; clock generation circuitry; and HDMI repeater functions. Later, Blackfin is being added to the reference design, as the DSP performs audio decoder, system control and HDMI/HDCP repeater functions at lower, according to Bartow.

"The goal of such a platform is to drive system implementations," he said, adding that this can be made by providing software, board layout and successful HDMI compliancy. "For the Hitachi wireless video transmission hub, Wavescale compression technology has played a critical role as it offers visually lossless fidelity and performance," he noted.

ADI believes that the Wavescale codec will prevail because bandwidth will always be an issue for most wireless HD connectivity solutions.

"While it is still not common to see JPEG2000 chips implemented in digital consumer devices today, some other notable brand names in Japan will soon be adopting Wavescale codec," Bartow said.

Adding a codec such as Wavescale in a system, however, will raise a few issues like additional cost and latency.

Bartow added that the cost of Wavescale codec is already less expensive than UWB's radio as high-volume consumer applications roll out. "Latency is becoming less an issue, unless a user is an uber gamer," he noted. ADI claimed that the current solution reduces latency to less than 100ms when changing channels or video sources. "We demonstrate a wireless HD video hub connected to Sony's PlayStation 3," he said, "so that we can show that latency is no longer an issue. ADI is confident that the combination of its Blackfin and HDMI connectivity solutions will pave the way for the company to further penetrate the digital consumer market.

Currently, ADI's biggest competitor in the HDMI chip market is Silicon Image. He estimated that the HDMI market to be more than 150 million annual CE units.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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